Living on our property in rural Victoria near the alpine area, we are often treated to a variety of Australian birdlife ranging from bright blue Superb Fairy Wrens and raucous Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and occasionally the owl-like Tawny Frogmouth. The latter is a nocturnal bird that requires a keen eye to spot during the day. The tawny frogmouth is able to master the art of camouflage and blend in with the bark of a gum tree tucked in a hollow. My husband and I were thrilled to find the adult male pictured above in one of our large gum trees next to our dam last year. He graced us with his presence for more than a week, and his distinctive deep booming “Oom-oom-oom-oom” noise could often be heard in the evening.
Apparently, if they sense danger, Tawny Frogmouths can hiss loudly and puff themselves up to look much bigger with enlarged eyes and wide-open beaks. However, the best defence they have is in their ability to vanish into their surroundings. The mottled grey feathers against the matching bark of the tree also make them hard to photograph during the day. I love his closed eyes as he tries to ignore the world.
But come nightfall, and that sleepy pose is replaced with the action of flight and search for food. I assumed that frogs were on their menu because our dam is full of noisy croaking, especially during spring. The name Tawny Frogmouth relates to their appearance. The “large flattened, triangular, hooked beak which is olive-grey in colour, and the huge frog-like gape is used to catch insects” is the description provided by the animalcorner.org website. The birds also go through two different plumage colour changes from silver-grey to being russet-red.
Our visitor disappeared, although we could still hear faint sounds of “Oom-oom-oom-oom” from a distance for another week or so.
Then over a week ago, we had a surprise visitor land on our verandah close to our house early evening when it was going dark. My husband spotted the young Tawny Frogmouth while outside and called me out to look. I grabbed my camera and was thrilled to take some closeups of this downy little creature. We think our outdoor lights must have attracted him to try his luck at catching insects. It was fairly obvious this bird was still on his L-plates for flying and not long out of the nest. One notable aspect was the different noise to an adult bird which sounded more like a croak.
We didn’t want to stress him out too much, so we quickly moved away and were surprised when one of the parents landed on our verandah as if to say, come on home now. Lights were switched off, and we can only assume that the pair flew off together. There haven’t been any sightings since, so we hope they are alright.
I found a delightful video (link below) about these wonderful unusual, but endearing Australian birds which deserve to win our affection. Makes me appreciate seeing them in the wild so much more.